Land invaders target lowveld sugar estates

Augustine Mukaro


A FRESH wave of farm takeovers hit the southeastern Lowveld this week with Zanu PF supporters and land officers seizing five plots with a read-to-harvest sugarcane crop.

The farm owners, most of them South African nationals, have since app

ealed to the South African embassy in Harare to intervene.

In a letter to Willem Geerlings, first secretary at the SA embassy, which was copied to the Commercial Farmers Union, the farmers alleged that a Chiredzi lands officer, identified only as Mukonyora and one Guruvheti and an A2 farmer, one Jambaya, invaded Hippo Valley Settlement, Holding 16, giving the owner 30 days to vacate the property.

“Today, April 11, 2006, the Chiredzi lands officer Mukonyora and Guruvheti arrived on the farm to inform Wayne Petzer that the remainder of the farm has been taken over and that he has 30 days to get off,” reads the letter.

“The lands officer and the new A2 farmer Jambaya then walked around the homestead and stated that: Petzer could cut one block of cane (approx 5ha) and then the rest will be taken by them and Petzer will receive compensation for the balance.”

The team demanded that the farmer should leave behind air conditioners, a borehole pump, a swimming pool pump, a hammer mill and two tractors which they had previously seen on the property.

“On the property there is a main homestead, a self-contained cottage and a large separate snooker room with kitchenette and toilet.  The lands officer Guruvheti wants to immediately move into the snooker room. They insist that the current people in the cottage must move out immediately and that Petzer should have moved out by May 11, 2006,” the letter says.

The sugar-milling season starts on April 20, showing that the farm takeovers are targeted at reaping the sugarcane crop.

Farmers in the area said harassment of sugarcane growers have been prevalent in Chiredzi particularly towards the harvest period, as some unscrupulous elements wanted to benefit from the crop.

“The land officers have a long history of plot-hopping antics, especially Guruvheti,” one farmer said.

“We suspect that Guruvheti is still running his other plot on Fairrange (Mapanza) where he has placed a relative.”

Other farmers facing problems in the area include those on farms 14, 12, 17, 51 and 13, who have applied for A2 status without getting a response.

At farm 13, the owner, Pierre Guimbeau, who applied for A2 status on March 14, 2006 was surprised to be visited by a Mr Nyokwe, a Masvingo province lands officer, on April 9, armed with an offer letter dated March 28, 2006, Ref: LLRR 704 and signed by Lands minister Didymus Mutasa.

“Nyokwe is transferring from Farm 53, where he averaged 10ton/ha last season and has since abandoned this plot,” one farmer said. 

“Nyokwe says he wants to negotiate the crop with Guimbeau who has put in all the inputs into this crop.”